When the word “teenager” comes to mind, memories come flooding with it — getting behind the wheel for the first time, prom, first dates, graduating high school, and so many more. However, many of our adolescent buddies never get to make these memories due to being immunocompromised, as well in long-term care. This is why the work of Megan Mclaren, a senior at St. Louis University (SLU), Missouri, is so important. Even though in-person volunteering is suspended due to the pandemic, Megan has been working hard to plan a virtual prom for the adolescents in her community. Megan aspires to make prom an annual event for her chapter, in the hopes of it being in-person, after this year. 

Megan started her StudentsCare journey in 2017, first volunteering in our Hospital Buddy Program (HBP) at World Pediatric Project, and later transitioning to the HBP at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, in 2019. Despite being a nursing student with a busy schedule and working night shifts, Megan stepped up to the role and responsibilities of Chapter Leader in 2019. Megan believes StudentsCare has been integral in shaping her college experience, as well as influencing her outlook on patient care. Megan feels that her time spent with her buddies is just as important to her as it is to them. She reflects fondly on her favorite memory of StudentsCare, a time just before volunteering was restricted due to the pandemic. The Child Life specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital suggested that Megan see an adolescent patient. This patient was having a particularly hard time coping; being in her teens, she was missing out on once in a lifetime experiences. Megan picked out a few games for them to play together and stopped by the patient’s room. When the patient saw Yahtzee! her face lit up — it turns out, Yahtzee was her favorite game of all time! Megan says, “We played round after round for about an hour until I realized my shift was over. I had to make it back to campus for class, so I let her know I had to leave for the day. She started tearing up and was visibly upset. This had such an impact on me. I realized that while the time we spent together may not appear special on the surface, it meant the world to her (and to me!). It provided a glimpse into the psychosocial challenges that hospitalized children often face. Ultimately, I know that I will be a better pediatric nurse due to all of my experiences with StudentsCare.” 

For the first time, normal experiences have been put on hold for everyone across the globe, not just patients. This makes us realize the importance of consistency and normal interactions in our own lives, and especially in the lives of our buddies. It puts into perspective the impact our volunteers and buddies have on each other. We are thankful to our volunteers, like Megan, for providing us with some of that consistency, in a time where almost everything seems to be inconsistent. Thank you, Megan, for going above and beyond to make a difference!


Author: Mukta Vibhute, Program Intern